Military families seek support in each other

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(Host) The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a constant, often very lonely, reality for those with loved ones in the military. All over Vermont, local troop support committees are working to assure that those whose lives have been disrupted most are not forgotten.

VPR’s Susan Keese looks in on one group that meets twice a month in Dover.

(Woman tying ribbons.)

(Keese) Members of the Deerfield Valley Troop Support Group have been tying yellow ribbons since the spring of 2003.

(Cathy Goodell) “Ours is a different style probably than the ones in Brattleboro.”

(Keese) Cathy Goodell’s son was in Afghanistan when the group started hanging yellow ribbons in Valley towns. She says she needed to keep busy. And it helped to be around neighbors who understood what she was going through.

(Goodell) “Because when you have a loved one over there and you’re not communicating with anyone, you think you’re the only one going through that. You feel really lonely, you feel scared, the whole thing.”

(Keese) Deborah Haslund’s son was in Iraq.

(Haslund) “And that sleeplessness was there every single night.”
(Woman) “Every time the phone rings your heart just…”
(Haslund) “And you know, you’d have these nightmares about the guys coming up the road to give you the notice.”

(Keese) Haslund’s son is in the States now, but she knows he could be called back at any time. The Deerfield Valley Support group keeps track of all the comings and goings of area service people with care packages and cards and notices in the local paper.

(Goodell) “Because most of us have known each other for practically forever. So you know all these people and you care. You just really care what they’re going through.”

(Keese) Some worry that people are getting complacent about the war, that it isn’t front and center in the news the way it was at first. They say that’s why the yellow ribbons are still important.

(Women) “So people don’t forget. You can’t help but look at the ribbon and think and remember, ‘Oh yeah, there are people still there.'”

(Keese) But the group has also taken on other projects. They’re selling yellow ribbon car magnets. The money goes into an emergency fund for local families who may need to visit a wounded soldier. Last week they sponsored a speaker on mental health issues that could surface when the warriors return. They’ve invited the community and members of troop support groups in other southern Vermont towns.

Today they’re going over a list the Bennington group has made of useful items for care packages.

“Sunscreen, playing cards, socks, batteries, odor eaters, baby wipes, trail mix, waterless soap, beef jerky, lotion, lip balm – their lips get very dry in the desert – pens, papers, Kool-Aid, throat lozenges, you know that kind of thing.”

(Keese) Simple requests, passed on by new friends, in anything but normal times.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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